LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Veterans may be eligible for Légion d’honneur
On Remembrance Day, look at the elderly veterans gathered at your local cenotaph, standing proudly or seated with a warm blanket on their lap. Try to imagine what they experienced many decades ago, when they were young and the world was at war.
The great invasion to kick the Nazis out of France took place on June 6, 1944. The largest Allied armada of war- ships readied for the battle of Normandy. Those onboard would face an array of deadly obstacles: barbed wire, mines, and heavy concrete fortifications containing cannons and machine guns.
This was the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany’s grip on Western Europe. Many years of preparation had taken place to get the Allies ready for this day. Canadians were already fighting in Italy, slowly push- ing their way up the Italian boot. What had been called the soft underbelly of Europe was instead a meat grinder, where battles like Ortona were hard won by the men of Vancouver’s famed Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, Alberta’s Loyal Edmonton Regiment and Quebec’s Three Rivers Regiment [now known as the 12e Régiment blindé].
The D-day landings on the French coast and the subsequent liberation campaign saw Canada fighting against an experienced and ruthless enemy. With every footstep taken, soldiers died and many more suffered injuries. For some, their injuries would remain with them for their entire lives. The D-day landings alone cost our nation 359 war dead.
Nearly 80 years have passed, and these brave men and women who were once young have grown old. Sadly, very few remain. It is their eleventh hour, probably the last opportunity to properly thank them. The government of France would like to pay tribute to all living Canadian veterans who participated in the D-Day landings, Dieppe raid or campaign to liberate France in 1944. If you were in the Canadian army, navy, air force or merchant navy at that time, you may be eligible to receive France’s highest award, the National Order of the Légion d’honneur.
If you would like more information, please send an email to Korea19501953@yahoo.com and put “Veteran” in the subject line. I am an unofficial volunteer who is willing to help. I have so far found 26 veterans who have now received the Légion d’honneur.
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know served in the Second World War and are interested in learning more about this program, you can also contact the Embassy of France in Ottawa at 613-562-3713.